Are we spending too much on stadiums?

The_Wookie Roar Guru

By The_Wookie, The_Wookie is a Roar Guru

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    As a sports fan, I love a good stadium. As an AFL fan, we’ve enjoyed the ovals and upgrades to facilities that are announced on a regular basis. However, as an Australian taxpayer, I have to ask whether it’s all a bit too much.

    In recent times, more than 1.8 billion dollars has been allocated to stadium builds – and yes, much of that comes from the Adelaide and Perth developments. $100 million of it will come from the AFL and various crickeet trusts.

    The $1.8 billion rises to $2.5 billion if you factor in the last eight years (which includes a $464 million MCG Northern Stand Redevelopment, though admittedly only $77 million came from the Victorian government). The question we should all be asking is just how State Governments will find the $1.7 billion to build stadiums.

    You have to remember that these are the same states complaining they don’t have enough funds, in particular South Australia and Western Australia, who complain about funding shortfalls every time the budget is due.

    Apparently, though, they think nothing of spending an easy half billion dollars on professional sports infrastucture.

    In Perth, NIB stadium has received approval for an $82 million stadium upgrade, while at the same time the government intends to spend another $700 million on a stadium that will be used maybe 25 times a year for AFL matches.

    From a pure economic standpoint, wouldnt that extra $85 million best have been invested in the 60,000 seat stadium that will sell out perhaps twice a year, if only to justify the return on investment over time?

    Instead, you have union, A-League, and potentially rugby league playing out of the little 25,000 seat rectangular stadium, cricket playing out of the WACA, and AFL having this massive tailored stadium more or less to itself.

    In Adelaide, the economics border on ridiculous. The A-League club will play out of the 15,000 seat Hindmarsh stadium, while two AFL clubs will play out of the new, shiny Adelaide Oval they will share with cricket. Cricket barely utilises the ground to its current capacity, let alone requires the new one.

    In Sydney, the SCG has approved a 186 million dollar upgrade – whole stadiums have been built for this recently – in a stadium that is almost never full, while the government is upgrading the showgrounds despite there being an 80,000-seat oval stadium right next door, and an underutilised 36,000 seat stadium across the city.

    In Queensland the government has recently built Carrara, which aside from Commonwealth Games use will only be used for 11 AFL matches a year, while across the coast is a rectangular stadium that is also underused by its tenants.

    Yes, I get that soccer, league and union are vastly better to watch in rectangular stadia. I just can’t justify it in the face of hospital closures and extensive waiting lists for critical procedures. I can’t justify it when funding for life saving medical treatments is being cut or is non-existent. I known where I’d rather our taxpayer funds go.

    People won’t die if they have to watch Australian football at ANZ Stadium, people won’t die if they have to watch football at the new Perth stadium. Then there are other issues. There are 180,000 homeless people in Australia that need help – they won’t be able to sleep on the bright red Carrara terraces. Tens of thousands of people live below the poverty line – they wont be able to afford the food at ANZ stadium anyway. Thousands more are out of work and will not benefit from these stadiums one iota. The refugee issue gets no closer to being solved by building the stadium at Burswood, unless it will house the boat arrivals when they get here.

    Where have our governments’ priorities gone when giant edifices which primarily benefit professional sporting organisations that rake in millions per year in profit are put ahead of public health and safety? Surely if we must build stadiums – and I get that sport is an essential part of Australian culture – then the public have a right to expect more bang for their dollar?

    It’s not like the average community player will benefit. Most will never set foot on the turf, or do anything other than sit in one of the brightly coloured seats for which they have had to mortgage thir house, and sell their cars in order to buy a pie and a beer in a plastic cup.

    Cricket and the AFL share grounds across the country, while rugby league, union and football have all been played on the MCG and Etihad. Not to mention the Gabba, Carrara and the SCG. It can be done, it should be done. Theroetically the more use you get out of a stadium, the cheaper it should be for patrons to enter. Compare AFL entry prices at the MCG with anywhere else in the country for most sports.

    Stadiums should be for the consideration of all.

    Major Stadium Grants in 2011-12
    Skoda Stadium (Sydney Showgrounds) – $20 million
    Metricon Stadium (Gold Coast) – $144 million
    Sydney Cricket Ground – $186 million
    Melbourne Cricket Ground (Southern Stand) – $55 million
    Simonds Stadium (Geelong) – $29 million
    Adelaide Oval – $570 million
    Burswood Stadium (Perth) – $700 million
    NIB Stadium (Perth) – $82.5 million
    Bellerive OVal (Tas) – $21 million (applied for)
    WIN Stadium (NSW) – $29.8 million
    Penrith Stadium (NSW) – $5 million
    ———————————————-
    Total: 1.8 billion
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    The Crowd Says (67)

    • January 7th 2012 @ 11:05am
      Stu said | January 7th 2012 @ 11:05am | ! Report

      The current Labour government in QLD has built Metricon, Skilled and Suncorp stadiums using tax payer’s money. They have invested far too much money in these stadiums and the governing body, Stadiums Queensland, charges extraordinary amounts to hire which in turn is passed on to the tax payer. While the comm games will bring work to the area, the stadiums are hardly worth the cost given their use, particularly on the coast.

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      • January 7th 2012 @ 11:43am
        Ian Whitchurch said | January 7th 2012 @ 11:43am | ! Report

        Stu,

        Are you complaining that the State government paid for the stadiums, or are you complaining they charge for them ?

      • January 9th 2012 @ 9:37pm
        cos789 said | January 9th 2012 @ 9:37pm | ! Report

        All rectangular grounds in Queensland are run at a profit.

    • January 7th 2012 @ 11:20am
      tigergerry said | January 7th 2012 @ 11:20am | ! Report

      I truly believe that the historic, highly popular and every real league fans favourite ground, Leichhardt Oval has been disgracfully neglected. A misely 5 or 6 million has been spent on the ground in the past 25 years. This is a ground that sells out almost every week and isn’t given the oportunity to live out its full potential. The Latchem Robinson stand should be extended to double its current size, all surrounding terrace seating should be replaced and the hill left as is because it is the heart and soul of the place.

      Brookvale Oval has too been neglected. Why on earth has St George Illawarra had both there grounds renovated with more than $50 million granted while both the tigers and manly have been ignored??

      • January 7th 2012 @ 4:48pm
        Maximus said | January 7th 2012 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

        Leichhardt oval sold out almost every week. The Tigers play 6 or 8 games a year ther…

    • January 7th 2012 @ 11:27am
      Cameron said | January 7th 2012 @ 11:27am | ! Report

      Hindmarsh Stadium in South Australia is a 17,000 seat stadium, not a 15,000 seat stadium.

    • January 7th 2012 @ 11:41am
      Chris said | January 7th 2012 @ 11:41am | ! Report

      It’s a tricky question, no doubt about it. It should be pointed out that governments also fund things like opera, the ballet and art galleries. Isn’t this money that could also be put towards schools, hospitals and roads?

      Its a juggling act, and there will always be an argument for changing funding arrangements in some way depending on what a person’s particular priorities are.

    • January 7th 2012 @ 11:50am
      JiMMM said | January 7th 2012 @ 11:50am | ! Report

      Some good ponts you have raised in here Wookie, but I disagree with your assertation that most codes should play out of one stadium. Realistically there is no problem with a city having 2 large state of the art stadiums, one round and one rectangular, catering for the main 5 sports spread over the year (I haven’t included an indoor stadium in this for other second tier sports, netball and basketball, but it’s probably worth considering).

      Where we run into problems is where there is a proliferation of the same type of stadiums, see sydney for the extreme, or when one user starts making demands (not bookings, as all users should be done on first in first served, apart from traditional bookings) that will affect other users, see the AFL and the Gabba.

      In my view governments should only fork out if they have some semblance of ownership of the facility, and might recieve some return to recoup the investment. They should also take into consideration if there are other already existing facilities that could fulfill the need before they make an investment, specifically taking into account the amount of usage.

      I think Melbourne and Brisbane have got the balance pretty much right, the stadiums are in central locations that are easily accesible to the vast majority of the poulation and have sufficient usage that they shouldn’t be dipping into the public purse except in extreme situations. Whereas Sydney is probably the worst, where every team gets a prize (Stadium), and the only thought seems to be around whether there can be votes garnered from this, it also doesn’t help that Sydney is probably the most disparate city in the country.

      • Roar Guru

        January 7th 2012 @ 12:35pm
        The_Wookie said | January 7th 2012 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

        Sydney and Melbourne reflect two sides of the sporting mind, in Melbourne everything is more or less centred on 3 stadia, all within the CBD, in Sydney they have the same 3 stadia – 2 ovals, one which can be converted to a rectangle, and a rectangle stadium. The difference is that in melbourne 9 AFL clubs play out of 2 stadiums, the SFS and ANZ have to share with a tonne of little league stadiums. This is Not an issue with me, until they all start applying for government funding to help out.

    • January 7th 2012 @ 11:53am
      Jack Russell said | January 7th 2012 @ 11:53am | ! Report

      The Burswood stadium will sell out a hell of a lot more than twice a year. The Eagles will probably sell it out for every game. Their waiting list alone could potentially take up the extra 17,000 seats.

      • Roar Guru

        January 7th 2012 @ 12:31pm
        The_Wookie said | January 7th 2012 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        Thats not really true either, due to reserved seating entitlements the average crowd for an eagles game is about 7,000 short of capacity, and the average freo crowd is about 9,000 short. (much the same as sellout crowds at the MCG are sometimes as much as 12 – 15,000 short)

        • January 7th 2012 @ 1:45pm
          Jack Russell said | January 7th 2012 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

          Hang on, are you talking about sellouts or crowds? The stadium might not reach 60,000 capacity many times, but that doesn’t mean it’s not sold out.

          I’d imagine most stadiums in the world where there are large numbers of season ticket holders would struggle to fill entirely for a regular season game. It’s only one off matches (such as finals) where people have to buy a single ticket where you’re going to get every seat filled. Even then, invariably there will be people that don’t get to the game. Car breakdown, medical emergency, catastrophic weather, angry wife, etc etc.

          It really has nothing to do with the viability of the stadium. If all tickets are sold, whether 50,000 or 60,000 show up is pretty much inconsequential.

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